Hospitality Service as Science and Art The Luxury Hotel Idea from a Century Ago
Kipum Lee, Doctoral candidate at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University and senior interaction designer at Marriott International, the parent company of the Ritz-Carlton.
While it is tempting to think that service design is fairly new, the activities within grand luxury hotels during the second industrial revolution (1870 – 1930) reveal a narrative of service design that predates the formal discipline. In the United States, the activities of eating, sleeping and playing were shaped under the guiding principle of ‘Service as Science’. In Europe, these activities were shaped by a different principle of ‘Service as Art’. Significantly, this distinction calls attention to the same contemporary issue within the discipline today. The purpose of this article is twofold: to foster an appreciation for a rich legacy of service production, as well as to challenge the discipline by presenting multiple ways to move forward. Services and the Luxury Hotel in the New and Old World To understand the grand narrative of the production of modern services, one can begin with the rise and development of luxury hotels during the nineteenth century. This period is fascinating, because it is when the hospitality industry experienced tremendous growth, formalised methods and techniques in order to yield economies of scale and became a key player in the shaping of the leisure class. While the idea of commercial hospitality had existed since ancient times, it underwent a transformation in
the nineteenth century as the growth of industries bestowed upon a large group of people the means to travel and take part in pleasures that were hitherto reserved only for nobles and royalty1. If one desires to understand how human beings conceived, crafted and operationalised services during the second industrial revolution, the luxury hotel as a subject matter is quite fitting: it is where we find concrete examples of service delivery and guest experiences that are the hallmark of service design. It is interesting that one side of the Atlantic provided fertile grounds